Critics Consensus

Incendiary, subversive, and darkly humorous, If.... is a landmark of British countercultural cinema.



Total Count: 39


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,108
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Movie Info

Lindsay Anderson's If.... is a daringly anarchic vision of British society, set in a boarding school in late-sixties England. Before Kubrick made his mischief iconic in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made a hell of an impression as the insouciant Mick Travis, who, along with his school chums, trumps authority at every turn, finally emerging as a violent savior in the vicious games of one-upmanship played by both students and masters. Mixing color and black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy and reality, If.... remains one of cinema's most unforgettable rebel yells.(c) Criterion


David Wood
as Johnny
Rupert Webster
as Bobby Philips
Robert Swann
as Rowntree
Peter Jeffrey
as Headmaster
Arthur Lowe
as Mr. Kemp, Housemaster
Graham Crowden
as History Master
Richard Everett
as Pussy Graves
Mary McLeod Bethune
as Mrs. Kemp, Housemaster's Wife
Ben Aris
as John Thomas, Undermaster
Anthony Nicholls
as Gen. Denson
Michael Cadman
as Fortinbras
Charles Lloyd Pack
as Classics Master
Tommy Godfrey
as School Porter
John Garrie
as Music Master
Guy Ross
as Stephans
Graham Sharman
as Van Eyssen
Ellis Dale
as Motorcycle Salesman
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News & Interviews for If....

Critic Reviews for If....

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (2)

  • Making his debut in the lead role, Malcolm McDowell displays the charisma he would bring to A Clockwork Orange...and the ending still packs a punch.

    Nov 16, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Punchy, poetic pic that delves into the epic theme of youthful revolt.

    Jul 6, 2010 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The film finally succumbs to its own abstraction with an ending that satisfies neither symbolism nor wish fulfillment.

    May 9, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A film of tremendous resonance, coming when it did in 1968 with the force of a grenade.

    May 9, 2007 | Full Review…
  • A modern classic in which Anderson minutely captures both the particular ethos of a public school and the general flavour of any structured community.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
  • If . . . is so good and strong that even those things in the movie that strike me as being first-class mistakes are of more interest than entire movies made by smoothly consistent, lesser directors.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4.5/5

Audience Reviews for If....

  • Jun 20, 2015
    Lindsay Anderson's middle finger
    Sanity Assassin ! Super Reviewer
  • Jul 30, 2014
    "If I go insane, please don't put your wires in my brain." I figured Pink Floyd was the way to go, because, wow, this film is about as weird a piece of '60s counterculture as psychedelic folk and rock, and Pink Floyd's "If" came out in 1970. That's right, people, this film is that old, and if that's not enough for you, it's Malcolm McDowell's film debut, which I should tell you that he's always been into pushing boundaries when it comes to portraying kids as the creeps they truly are. Mind you, not every creepy kid acts on a school shooting or anything like that, but the fact of the mater is that I'm wondering if the sequel to this film is really "O Luck Man!", or "A Clockwork Orange". It's an understandable misconception, because, come on, let's face it, Lindsay Anderson's "Mick Travis" trilogy has to be respected for having the audacity to admit that Malcolm McDowell played the same character throughout the height of his career. Shoot, in that case, you can forget the "trilogy" title, because as many films as McDowell has been involved in that are shockingly similar to this one, we're looking at a bona fide "Mick Travis" franchise here (I'm sure the spin-off TV show would make HBO cringe), and it all started with this. I suppose this is a fair way to kick off the saga, although the film does seem to have a little trouble figuring out what it's doing at times. I'm not saying that this artistic endeavor gets to be a little uneven with its style, but even its occasional alternations from a colored palette to black-and-white proves to be jarring, about as much as the more recurrent issue of thematic storytelling's either getting too direct to be subtle, or often getting too subtle for more over-the-top plotting touches to feel effective as satire, or fit into the more grounded aspects of the narrative. This film does not expend depth for the sake of thematic value as much as it perhaps could have, what with the generally solid characterization and acting, but a sense of humanity remains rather shaken by a satirical placement of style over substance that isn't even particularly even. Even greater unevenness rests in focus, as the film bloats itself with some subplots and branches that feel either a tad inconsequential or rather overblown, due to storytelling's finding difficulty in prioritizing the degree to which it focuses on its layers. Really, the structure of this plot is all sorts of overblown, as it's predominantly reliant on filler and meandering material to slowly, but surely unravel a narrative that just ends up coming out to be a whole lot of nothing, punctuated by bite. That's fine, I suppose, as there is enough color to storytelling to keep entertainment value adequate throughout overlong and meandering plotting, but things really start going downhill when that entertainment value lapses under dry spells, of which there are many to bland things up, and sometimes simply bore. At the very least, the cold direction further thins down resonance that is always challenged in this generally well-crafted, yet thoroughly flawed artistic effort. The final product is rather underwhelming, but it is indeed pretty enjoyable, challenging your patience, then securing it enough for you to embrace, if nothing else, the ideas behind this project. A satirical study on youth's non-conformity's evolving into savage resistance against harsh peers and a questionable education system, this black comedy's plot concept is problematically driven by meanderings, yet still intriguingly worthy and chillingly daring, as well as surprisingly original, at least in its interpretation. Lindsay Anderson's direction intentionally carries a sort of distinctly British and abstractionist chill to its atmosphere that feels pretty limp, and does a lot to hold back the final product's engagement value, and yet, there's still something inspired about the directorial efforts here, for although style is even uneven, when it bites, it livens things up a considerable deal, while moments of realization to more subdued storytelling all but resonates. There's a certain entertainment value throughout this nonetheless often bland film, as there's almost always something for Anderson to soak up with his thoughtful storytelling and subtly sharp style, whose sense of nuance is aided by Anderson's work with a solid cast of talents. There's a certain lack of humanity in this film which is often too intensely focused up its stylistic and thematic value, so there's not much material for the performers to work with, but whether it be distinguished veterans or then-up-and-coming and now-distinguished young talents, most everyone delivers on pretty thorough charisma, if not more human layering than what is offered in David Sherwin's script. If this film has nothing else, it has an artistic confidence that is very charming, and sometimes about as effective as it can be in a film so slow and thin in focus, particularly within a script that, as irony would have it, is about as notable as any strengths, just as it is as notable as any flaw. For every misstep, Sherwin turns in a highlight, whether it be within a wit that, when backed by a realization in tone for this black comedy, amuses, sometimes outstandingly, or within offbeat characterization and set pieces that combine with an already thematically harrowing plot in order to bring the final product a uniqueness which makes the value of this effort a little easier to embrace. What keeps the final product from falling as memorable is largely thought-provoking themes, although the thematic value is not the only thing which holds your attention throughout a bland, but ultimately well-stylized and biting satire. In the end, an uneven style at least keeps consistent in dehumanizing this character study, while focal unevenness derives from a defining structural dragging that is made all the more challenging by the directorial dull spells which render the final product underwhelming, but through generally confident direction, charismatic performances, and clever writing which does an adequate deal of justice to unique and daring subject matter, Lindsay Anderson's "if..." stands as a reasonably engaging and sometimes engrossing black comedy, despite its misguided spots. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 10, 2011
    A film whose themes and even lead are closely related to Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, the film varies underneath these surfaced level similarities. If.... makes for a film with many layers and is truly deserving of its reputation as one of British counterculture's greatest achievements in film. Not as brutal or blunt as A Clockwork Orange the film is still no cake walk and you must be prepared accordingly. If you are, you will be in for quite a viewing. It's another student against teachers and what society deems appropriate but one that deals with this issue in a much more violent and surreal experience than other works, most notably Zero de conduit (1933) by the legendary Jean Vigo. This too was a surreal look at student rebellion but one that is much less violent and not as angst filled as If.... Now almost a half century later it is still considered one of the greatest of youth rebellion and anti-establishment films of all time.
    Chris B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2011
    Lindsay Anderson's "If...." is a sly, confident film about anarchy. Not necessarily enjoyable but certainly always interesting. Anderson's use of color theory works well. The scenes that are shot in color (majority of the film) show the boys rebelling against the predetermined set of rules (man made or natural) either externally or internally and the scenes shot in black and white are the boys complying to those same sets of rules (but usually in a more naturalistic sense, ex: cooking). Malcolm McDowell is excellent here in his first screen role. "If...." works better as a time capsule film because it's commentary has lost some of it's bite, but it's still very much worth your time and attention.
    Steven C Super Reviewer

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